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Avoiding Infectious Diseases Abroad


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Travel abroad brings excitement, adventure - and exposure to creepy diseases like malaria, yellow fever, West Nile Fever and Ebola. See the whole heinous list of malingering maladies and which diseases are lurking in countries you plan to visit at The Traveler's Guide to Infectious Diseases. How to protect yourself: vaccinations before you go (when available) and common sense measures once you arrive.


Immunizations exist for the following diseases:

- Diphtheria (you were probably inoculated against diphtheria as a child - ask your parents) - transmitted by respiratory droplets or contaminated food and drink: translate sick waiter sneezing into your sushi
- Tick Borne Encephalitis - (vaccine not available in the U.S. - you can get a shot when you arrive in the country in question) - main tick hosts are small rodents
- Hepatitis A - transmitted through contaminated (often by raw sewage) food and water
- Hepatitis B - transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, semen or saliva
- Japanese Encephalitis - borne by mosquitos
- Meningococcal Meningitis - transmitted by respiratory droplets in direct contact, like kissing
- Rabies- contracted through a bite from an infected animal including dogs, bats, cats, skunks, raccoons, foxes, jackals, mongooses, and wolves
- Tetanus - caused by bacteria living in soil; anything with dirt on it piercing the skin may cause tetanus
- Typhoid - shed in feces and spread through contaminated food and water handled by an infected person or water contaminated by raw sewage (learn more about water on the next page)
- Typhus - transmitted by lice and fleas
- Yellow Fever - mosquito borne; see the "Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements" link below to find out which countries require proof of this immunization, and learn more about travel immunizations in general, as yellow fever may be one shot you must have for travel

Immunizations are not always 100 percent effective, though, so taking simple precautions are a must. And common sense becomes even more important when protecting yourself from diseases like malaria for which no immunization exists.

Taking Care

Diseases like typhoid which are spread through contact with infected feces are easy enough to avoid - lack of handwashing by waiters and cooks is a common cause of dysentery and other unpleasant maladies. Before ordering in a restaurant, stroll into the bathroom and ensure that soap exists - if not, the employees probably aren't washing their hands adequately. Flies carry dysentery - avoiding fly-festooned food booths is easy enough. I eat from street stands abroad all the time and I have not been sick yet (knocking on wood as I type).

Please go on to the next page to read about water and water safety precautions, and bugs, including typhus and lice.

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